We left Cuenca early Wednesday September 17. We expected the full trip to our first stop in Peru to be over 24 hours so the plan was an over-night stop in the town of Loja, Ecuador. At our hosts suggestion we opted for a private van transport to Loja, this avoided the dirty Ecuador buses that stop every few minutes for passengers and food vendors trying to sell us something. The ride was better, but the driver also went at top speed up and down the mountains, so fast that is was necessary to hold on or you would slam against the side of the van. Frank managed to sleep, I tried hard to focus on my book on tape since all other forms of entertainment were out of the question.
As we traveled south the landscape got dry and the towns and houses changed to very rural and very poor. Most homes had no windows, only dirt, garbage and stray dogs in the yards, always small children running around.
We arrived in Loja in the early afternoon and after some challenges our taxi found the hostel we selected by the bus station, so we could be close for our early morning departure. This was not a great hostel, next time we stay in the town, not by the bus station.
We left Loja at 7 am traveling again on the Ecuadorian style bus, bumpy, dirty and now we were in the first row seats, no leg room, no air conditioning, a really miserable ride. After 4 hours we stopped just outside of the border for lunch. Frank and I opted to eat our peanut butter ( manta) and jelly sandwiches I prepared and did not venture out into the town.
At the border we were instructed to get off the bus and stand in a line at one window to a small house to complete our Ecuadorian paperwork. Once this was completed we then had to walk across the border, a road with a very small river, or stream by American standards to another window to complete the Peru paperwork. It was hot, very dry and the total process took around 2 hours to process around 20 people; not a cattle call. Needless to say it was an exasperating experience. True to our traveler voyage we were with 2 other backpackers, from Germany and Denmark, nice guys and we passed the time sitting on the side of the dirt road, chatting about long-term travel, Frank always the jokester, asked the guy from Germany if he could tell the border guard in Spanish : "if he does not let us into the country, we cannot spend money"-- very funny, the guy declined, but they both laughed. "Well, I got you to smile, me too", said Frank.
Back on hot bus for another 4 hours the town of Piura Peru, the plan was to have 2 more stops, each ride 4 hours. Piura was large, hot and had several large sections with hundreds of steel corrugated shacks surrounded by a wall with the name of the area. We were reminded of "Soweto" in Johannesburg South Africa.
The bus stations in Peru are small depots servicing single bus companies, like car rentals in the States. Once we arrived we needed to go to several bus companies and check the times for the onward journey. We had no Peru money yet. The city was large and we had our heavy bags, uneven streets and sidewalks and people everywhere, so we opted to pay a tuk tuk, which was a motorcycle with a seat behind it to take us to what we thought was the best company. Our Danish friend helped our negotiation to get the guy to take $1 coin from Ecuador. No luck at the depot-- the bus for the next town was hours away without a guarantee that we could get to our final destination. So back on anther tuk tuk, this time with the help of 2 female police officers, to another bus station where they had a direct 8 hour bus. We had missed the bus on our plan and the next bus did not leave for 6 hours and traveled all night, but they told us they were running a “special” only 50 sols per ticket, a bargain. We made a quick decision and purchased the ticket with visa. We still needed cash money. Our luck continued, a bank was next store, and air conditioned!! We were able to get our Peruvian Sol’s. Next , we needed food. Our agent at the bus station recommended an Asian restaurant ( Chifka) across the street, it turned out to be good food and Frank was able to get a very cold beer, perfect after the long hot day on the bus. After a few hours hanging out at the Chinese restaurant watching Peruvian game shows in Spanish we opted to go back to the bus station and watched “Rat Race” on the IPOD. What a hilarious movie. I am sure we were the sight, wearing our headphones and laughing and laughing at the bus station.
The bus was a different world from the buses in Ecuador. Large leather seats that recline to almost flat, bottled water, a meal, a movie in English. (Did we mention that on all the buses in Ecuador they play bad shoot 'em up movies in Spanish, very loud. Claude van Damme and the like). We slept all the way to Trujillo, Peru.
Total travel time from Cuenca Ecuador to Trujillo Peru – 48 hours
Time on buses – 22 hours
4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 6 bottles of water, and the best beer ever in a Chinese restaurant.